“Over 10 million children in the U.S. are already nearsighted,” said Treehouse Health, LLC Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Matt Oerding. “The condition is projected to grow to 30 million by 2050, and this is due to changes like spending less time outdoors and more time on electronic devices. The eye-care industry hasn’t capitalized on this opportunity—they continue to sell stronger glasses to kids every year as their vision worsens. No one has disrupted the market by focusing on myopia [nearsightedness] treatment that can give children better vision for life.”
And this is where Treehouse Eyes enters the picture. The company is opening the nation’s first commercial myopia control centers. These facilities, which are staffed by eye doctors, focus on slowing—or even stopping—the progression of childhood myopia. The business uses its patent-pending clinical protocol, the Treehouse Vision System, to determine appropriate non-surgical treatment plans customized for each patient, thereby ensuring optimal results. The centers do not sell glasses or treat adults and are thus uniquely designed to serve the needs of those families with myopic children.
“Treehouse was started at the end of September 2015,” Oerding explained. “My co-founder, [Treehouse Co-Founder & Chief Myopia Reduction Officer] Dr. Gary Gerber, and I are both eye-care industry people. I have 15 years experience with Novartis, and Gary was an eye doctor for 20 years and a consultant for another 15. Our idea was to treat nearsightedness in children, a condition which has gone up 66 percent in the past 30 years. Our focus with Treehouse Eyes is on the service delivery side in terms of treating nearsighted kids. A good analogy is braces. Children see a standard dentist for basic care and are referred to a specialist if they need braces. It’s the same thing for nearsighted kids and standard eye doctors can refer their patients to us so we can employ the Treehouse Vision System to address myopia in the earliest stages so as to slow, or maybe even stop, progression.”
Altruistic intent aside, Oerding and Gerber have, like all entrepreneurs, experienced the unrelenting headaches that go hand-in-hand with starting a business venture and bringing to market a sound—and much-needed—product or service.
“We bootstrapped the company until September 2015,” recalled Oerding. “We did a convertible note in October 2015 to fund our first centers and this round ended in April 2016. We had 30 individual investors who saw the need and business potential for our model. But our challenge for this financing round was that everything had to be done manually. Jumping back and forth between our law firm and accountants to prepare, organize, and send to our shareholders legal documents, financials, agreements, and capitalization information was a serious drain on our time. The process wouldn’t be necessarily expensive for most, but it was for us since Treehouse Eyes was a startup being bootstrapped on a tight budget. There were also very real costs in terms of the time and energy spent to make sure all of these [legal compliance] issues were done correctly, and that often took our focus away from building the company and improving our products and services.”
Going on, Oerding said, “By the end of last spring, we realized we needed to do a bridge [financing] round and did another convertible note targeting current investors and a few others in the pipeline.”
It was at this time that Oerding and Treehouse Eyes made contact with Main Street Exchange (MSE).
“We did a demo with Main Street late last summer,” recalled Oerding. “The immediate attractions of the MSE system were the time-savings aspect and the ability to seamlessly track communications with our investors. This not only saved us time, but them, too. And in addition to the time-savings approach, Main Street provided a professional, one-stop approach that met our needs when it came to legal compliance.” Indeed, Oerding estimates use of the MSE platform provided the company with a cost-savings of roughly $3,000 to $4,000. “Even if it had been a cost-neutral exercise,” Oerding emphasized, “the time saved by the ability to track everything all in one place still made MSE invaluable regardless of the cost-benefit analysis.”
After onboarding the company into the Main Street Exchange system, Oerding and Gerber launched their bridge round last September and closed the process in March of this year. “We used MSE for all of it and got 20 new investors,” Oerding said. “The investors came from all over the United States and some were even global. All in all, we raised $600,000.
“Throughout the bridge process, MSE was easy to use and any issues that did pop up were fixed quickly by the Main Street staff,” Oerding stated. “Our investors were also pleased by the platform’s ease of use. On my end, the MSE system made everything easier to track since I received automated email notifications alerting me when to sign or countersign documents. Everything was right there in one place, with all the notices being sent out reminding me I needed to log in for a few minutes to take action on something related to our legal compliance.”
With Treehouse Eyes continuing to expand, Oerding relayed his intent to rely upon the MSE platform to ensure the next stage of growth remains seamless and uncomplicated. “From a diligence perspective, the cap table and other required documents are already in the Main Street database and ready to go for current and future investors,” he noted. “I look forward to continuing to use MSE to keep all of our documents and investor information in one central place. As we move forward, I want to keep using the Main Street e-sign and automated investor and shareholder communications system—it’s so much easier than the old way of going back and forth with others via standard email to set up meetings and send documents for signing.
“The best part of the Main Street platform is the ease of use, not to mention the communication perspective. It’s all in one place so we can see and track document status. And this applies to investors, too, particularly when they look at the capitalization table. The MSE cap table is definitely better than using an Excel spreadsheet.”